As part of a continued effort to diversify its fleet, Pierce Transit has received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to begin fueling 90 percent of its buses with renewable natural gas.
“While the financial benefits of using natural gas for fuel are significant, and the rebates for RNG are an added bonus, the move from (compressed natural gas) to RNG is just the natural next step for Pierce Transit,” said Lynne Griffith, the agency’s chief executive officer. “It is just one more way that Pierce Transit demonstrates its commitment to the environment and continues its long history of pioneering sustainable, environment-friendly operations.”
The EPA approval, effective June 5, enables Pierce Transit to fuel 143 of its 155 buses with renewable natural gas. The 12 other buses will be diesel-fueled hybrid electrics, a part of the fleet that was funded by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant last April.
Pierce Transit moved its bus fleet to natural gas in 1986, championed by Ron Shipley, who was the director of maintenance at the time. Until 2010, the agency’s buses were 100 percent fueled by compressed natural gas.
Pierce Transit is the first transit agency in the nation to adopt renewable natural gas for public transportation services, according to the Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition.
“Renewable natural gas is among the most climate-friendly fuels on the market today,” said Scott DeWees, project manager for the coalition. “By using this locally produced, waste-derived fuel, Pierce Transit will reduce the carbon emissions of its fleet by 80 percent, while also investing in our regional economy. We applaud their leadership and innovation.”
Like compressed natural gas, renewable natural gas boasts financial savings for the agency. Carol Mitchell, a spokesperson for Pierce Transit, said natural gas is 70 cents per gallon, compared with a $3.75 per-gallon average for diesel.
The diesel-hybrid electrics in the fleet use very little diesel, Mitchell said. A small amount of diesel fuels a battery pack that runs the bus. Hybrid electric buses have 25 to 35 percent better fuel mileage over regular diesel, she said.
DeWees said renewable natural gas is a more diversified type of fuel.
“RNG can be generated from landfills, waste water treatment plants, agricultural operations and even organics recycling (composting),” DeWees said.
Mitchell said Puget Sound Energy will be the distributor through its natural gas pipeline.
Pierce Transit’s move had the support of Cost Management Services, Inc., the agency’s natural gas marketer since 2000, according to an agency news release. CMS arranges the purchase and delivery of the natural gas to Pierce Transit from the Cedar Hills Landfill in King County.
The contract with CMS expires Oct. 31. Approval of a new contract with CMS or a different provider will come before the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners next month.